British by birth, Lockington, 58, has had a successful conducting career in the United States since 1978. He’s currently music director of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Symphony and the Modesto (California) Symphony.
A resident of Dartford, England, he has guest-conducted around the country and has led many international chamber orchestras, including the English Chamber Orchestra, the Northern Sinfonia and the Israel Chamber Orchestra.
A cellist with a degree from Cambridge University, he came to the United States to get his master’s degree in cello and study conducting at Yale University. For three years he was assistant principal cello of the Denver Symphony before conducting full-time.
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He will lead the Northwest Sinfonietta for its first concert of next season, a program of Copland, Mozart and Beethoven in October. He will lead the March 2016 program of Kernis, Mendelssohn and Haydn’s “Mass in Time of War.”
Q: Have you ever done this kind of partnership model before?
A: The closest thing I’ve done is being the principal guest conductor of an orchestra in Spain — I do one-third of the concerts. So this is a new venture for me. Having more opportunities than just once a year creates an opportunity for the orchestra and conductor to build more rapport.
Q: What do you focus on with sound?
A: It depends on the piece: If we’re playing Haydn, we don’t want it to sound like Barber. I’m very clear about precision, dynamic contrast and a warm, beautiful tone.
My first musical experience was with opera, so that influenced me to become a very lyrical musician. I like music to sound as if it’s being played for the first time, a feeling of spontaneity, of rubato.
Q: Tell us about your choice of programming.
A: For the first concert, Mozart and Beethoven go so well together, and I’ve always loved Copland’s “Music for Theater.” There’s so much color — there’s fanfare, vaudeville, quiet periods.
The Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 is probably the most popular, and has such emotional drama. And Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 is rarely done.… It’s virtuosic, quite challenging. I love the balance of this program.
Haydn’s “Mass in Time of War” is also not done much, but he considered it to be one of his greatest works. It was written in a period when for more than 20 years Vienna was under siege or threat, and it’s definitely geared toward the contemplation of the spiritual in wartime.
Kernis’ “Musica Celestic” is also deeply spiritual … which contrasts with the Mendelssohn (Sinfonia in D minor), which is an early work but dramatic, earthy and passionate.
Q: What do you bring to the Sinfonietta as a partner?
A: I love creating programs with a mix of repertoire. I’m not a specialist — I’ve always done everything, and I like to think I infuse every piece with style and energy. That’s what I’m hoping to bring to the orchestra.